Saturday, November 20, 2010

Feeding the chickens who feed your kids - Do you buy the best or settle for less?

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by Rachel Hurd Anger


Considering I'm still nursing one of my children, it's been all too easy to develop a maternal connection to my chickens, but it's natural in the way that I care about their basic sustenance. When I go out to care for my chickens, to bring them warm water when it's cold, or to fill up their feeder, Mabel and Helen try to escape, although I like to imagine they're running into my arms. But, our pullets are growing so fast, and much like my kids' diets, I want to make sure what our girls eat is the best, since what they eat, we will eat.


Conventional feed isn't an option for our family, so the debate has been whether to settle for Non-GMO or to invest in organic.


Shipping costs for feed are ridiculously high, so we've come to rely on local suppliers. Our city has a locally-owned farm supply warehouse that is so pro-chicken, it's Louisville's chicken supply headquarters. They provide classes on raising urban (and suburban) chickens, and host chicken swaps to buy, sell, trade, or get together for the free organic fair-trade coffee with other "chickeneers" to talk shop.


The local supplier carries both Non-GMO/Non-soy and organic feeds, and on my last trip to the warehouse (a half hour away) I'd decided to move from the Non-GMO I was using to the organic. But, they were out.


The demand for organics is high in my city, so to score organic feed, I'll need to find out when they get shipments and buy ahead of my chickens' demand.


But, is it really a big deal?


Our girls will have fresh grass to graze on a regular basis in their mobile ark, so they are now eating omnivorous diets with access to insects and (gulp) arachnids. So, despite their inarguably natural supplemental feed, pesticide residue will transfer to us through their eggs, even though the levels may be impossibly low. (It's also possible that the Non-GMO feed is mostly organic, just not USDA certified as such.) With so many opinions, and so many feeds available (at least online), it's difficult to know what's really best, and what's unnecessary.


So, chickeneers, what do you feed your chickens, knowing that your chickens are also feeding your kids, and that your chickens' body burden may also become yours?


Contact the writer at rachel@hurdanger.com, or visit her website at hurdanger.com.


Photo: Rachel Hurd Anger

10 comments:

  1. Hey, I'm from southern Indiana and also trying to decide about chicken feed. Where in Louisville do you have the option of buying organic or Non-Gmo feed?
    My chickens range and receive all of our leftovers that are appropriate. I also grow various squash and store it for the winter for snacking.

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  2. The big difference between non-GMO and organic feeds is that non-gmo feeds have the possiblity of containing pesticide residue. In reality they may or may not contain pesticide residue but that is unspecified. I live in the city limits and have both ducks and chickens. When I do the math, to buy organic feed for my layers ended up putting our cost per dozen "home eggs" at the same price as a doz conventionally produced non-organic supermarket eggs, about $1.39/doz. To buy organically fed, pasture raised eggs would be between $4-5/doz.

    I choose organic becuase it saves me a lot of money comapared to store-buying the same quality of eggs that our girls produce. Ultimately, I believe that either choice is better than conventional feed, but I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to family health.

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  3. I buy Organic. It would be a little pricey for my budget, but my chickens free range - and so they don't eat that much layer mash. (we also give them plenty of kitchen and garden scraps...haha) I live in Texas.

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  4. Hi: I live in Minnesota, it gets pretty cold here in the winter, i have my hens in an insulated shed, heated water.. I was wondering what protein of feed you give your hens, mine seem to not be gaining weight the are laying eggs every day, i'am affaird that i may lose them over the winter since they are not very heavy RIR, I give them a 18% now, but going to give them a mix of 1/2 18% and 1/2 28% for awhile to see if i can put a little weight on them. I leave them locked in at night and on very cold and windy days, they are free range chickens. I really care for them so if some one can help me out here.

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  5. To bobrat:

    Deworm your chickens.

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  6. We also feed organic and had a problem finding local organic feed. Shipping is very pricey so we opted to mix our own organic food. Buying bulk grain, beans and anything else the chicks will eat. Our girls free range get a good worm supply from our compost at least once a week and also eat appropriate left overs. Just recently found organic pelleted diet that we can special order. The girls are not that crazy about pellets but it help supplementing and keeping the cost under control. One positive side effect the whole grain/bean diet has is that any dropped seeds sprout and are creating a great pasture with a wide variety of greens. We live in Virginia so the climate is moderate.

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  7. Britta- Where in VA are you? I am also in VA and would like to know where I can buy bulk non-GMO corn, beans, and other grains to mix my own feed. The co-op here can grind and mix it but they said they do not know if what they have is non-GMO or not. They also do not carry organic feed.

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  8. reply to chick chick:
    We are in Richmond. We buy the beans bulk at ELLWOOD THOMPSON, or Whole Foods. Wherever there is a sale. Also buy grain in bulk to grind and bake bread. Buying 50# brings price down. It is still pricey but worth it to us and the girls love their grain and beans...
    There is however a supplier for organic feed and he comes once a week to Richmond and delivers. Google organic chicken feed in VA and you will find them. Met him at the Harvest Festival in Charlottesville but have not ordered from him yet.
    Where are you located in VA?
    britta

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    Replies
    1. Britta,
      Not sure if you will see this as I know this post is from a few years ago. I live in Richmond and I was wondering if you had any more information regarding organic feed for my chickens. I have 6.. so buying their food from Ellwoods would get VERY expensive.. lol. Have you heard of any more local suppliers? I really want to feed my girls better!

      Delete
  9. Hi, I'm new here, what does non-GMO feed mean?

    Thanks,
    Kelly

    ReplyDelete

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